What It’s About: An Abercrombie model with the ability to time travel tries to solve his ex-girlfriend’s murder, killing scores more on the way.
Who It’s For: Mothheads, which is the name for Butterfly Effect superfans that I just made up.
Don’t you hate it when you keep forgetting to watch a movie, for 416 straight weeks? I’m such a bonehead sometimes. I have totally and consistently flaked on ever seeing the first Butterfly Effect, released a little over eight years ago. It’s a horrendous oversight, I know. What I remember about that movie from its trailers is that Ashton Kutcher, who is one of the three Half Men on that show, travels through time to help out Amy Smart, whose street rape was played for laughs in Crank, and also to stop Ethan Suplee from turning goth, or maybe explicitly to turn Ethan Suplee goth. I don’t remember, because I never saw the film. And I think the Butterfly Effect is the real idea — sensually invented by Jeff Goldblum, a droplet of water, and Laura Dern’s hand in Jurassic Park — that small changes cause big ripples, especially when it comes to time travel, a thing that is not real and could never be. You are now caught up.
Needless to say, I also did not see The Butterfly Effect 2. But each of the three films has a different main character as well as a different explanation as to why he can time travel, so think of them more as an anthology series where the guiding themes are “the consequences of time travel” and “terrible movie-making.” In this installment Chris Carmack, famous for yelling “Welcome to the OC, bitch!” while wearing a puka shell necklace, plays Sam Reide, the time-travelling protagonist. We learn the reason that Sam is able to leap back to earlier moments in his life is because he can. Consider me convinced. The way Sam time travels around is by getting into a tub full of ice, putting a heart rate monitor on, and then intensely focusing on where he wants to go. He uses his ability to help the local Detroit cops solve unsolved murders by jumping to when they happened and watching who did it. His sister monitors his jumps, because if he time travels for too long, his brain will burn up. That makes sense, because we all know how hard time traveling is on the temperature of your brain. It is, in fact, why most avoid doing any time traveling at all. “Uh, I’ll keep the ol’ noodle at a comfy 98.6. Thanks but no thanks.”
Sam’s time travel friend Goldberg reminds him there are two rules: You never jump back to alter your own past, and you never jump unsupervised. Sam knows the importance of these rules firsthand. When he was 15, Sam jumped back and saved his sister from a house fire. She lived, but in the new altered future, his parents died. That’s the curse of the Butterfly Effect. If you screw with your own past, Ethan Suplee will now be a goth. These rules have stopped Sam from going back and saving his ex-girlfriend Rebecca 10 years ago, when she was brutally murdered. But her sister Elizabeth shows up and tells Sam she’ll pay him to find the real killer using his “psychic" abilities. Sam says no, because of Goldberg’s rules.
Drunk with grief, Sam takes home his local bartender, and he and she have a lot of acrobatic sex. After a montage of five or six different positions and locations in the apartment, Sam catches sight of a picture of Rebecca on his coffee table, and he stops. “I’m sorry, I can’t.” Really? You can’t? “I can’t” is something you say after a girl at a party starts making out with you while your girlfriend is out of town. You don’t say “I can’t” when your girlfriend has been dead for 10 years and also you’ve been fucking for an hour. “I can’t ... fuck you for more than an hour. I just miss her too much.” Also, the scene opens with the bartender bent over a coffee table, her breasts smashed on the glass, shot from below. It is a very classy way to begin a gratuitous sex scene, and it definitely makes sense that Sam “can’t.” The filmmakers figured out the perfect way to communicate just how much of a sentimental guy Sam is.
Against his better judgment, Sam leaps back to the night of Rebecca’s murder. He finds her already murdered, brutally. Somebody took an electric saw to her entire rib cage. And Sam’s jump made things worse, as now a young Jennifer gets band-sawed as well. When Sam wakes up in the present, his world has started to change. A Hispanic man now rents his couch, and he no longer has a car. His world is falling apart! Or is it? Renting out a spare couch seems like a great way to make some extra cash, and cars consume precious fossil fuels. Maybe Jennifer’s death made things better? Maybe not. He’s accidentally created a serial killer: Many more women have died in the same manner as Rebecca and Jennifer, and the media calls the person the Pontiac Killer. (This all takes place in Detroit, a city we can only imagine was ruined by another one of Sam’s ill-advised jumps back into his own life.) He decides to jump back to the night of the Pontiac Killer’s second killing.
Sam hides in the closet as the Pontiac Killer’s third victim comes home. A hooded man grabs her and proceeds to violently tear off her clothes and rape her. It is brutal, and it feels like it goes on for a long time. Though, I have to say, never have I seen a rape on film where I said to myself, “Yeah, that felt right. Not a second too long. It left me wanting a little bit more rape.” Rape is obviously terrible, and so are depictions of it on film, so a film really has to earn that rape scene. Believe it or not, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations does not earn itself a rape scene. Its aha moment comes when we found out it’s all play-acting: the hooded man is the victim’s boyfriend, faking a rape at her insistence. Fuck you, this movie! Somehow, the attack being consensual and not “real” makes it OK for you to make it so exploitative? I disagree. Luckily, no one saw this piece of shit.
Back in the real world, the third victim, Anita, now was never murdered. Sam’s life is even worse, though. Now HE rents the couch from Paco. My, how the coffee tables have turned! Did Paco get to have sex with that bartender across the coffee table? He probably did not, because she is now married. Sam finds that out at the bar. The bartender kicks him out, because she’s closing down, even though daylight is pouring in. As soon as Sam is gone, the bartender gets Pontiac Killer’d, gruesomely.
Sam needs to go back and fix things, again. Does he realize he’s only making things worse? He hops back in a tub of ice. Paco bangs on the door, “I gotta take a shit!” which is a classic roommate problem. Didn’t Paco notice Sam loading in a dozen huge bags of ice, presumably, into the tub? That is the least believable part of time traveling in this film: how much ice Sam always has on hand. It is not easy to fill a tub with ice. When I am having three people over for dinner and plan on serving more than one round of drinks, I feel like getting my freezer full of enough ice is a multiday production of trays and Ziplocs. How does Sam keep having enough ice to fill a bathtub? Even with an icemaker, you’ve basically got to fill two trash bags. It’s summer time; where are you storing these trash bags? You are renting a couch in a bad part of Detroit — you definitely don’t have a huge second ice chest or something. All the time travel logic checks out, but I don’t buy how much ice you have.
Sam finally catches the Pontiac Killer in the act, and it turns out to be his sister. Do you remember her? Me neither. She was the vague, pointless character we occasionally saw every 20 minutes. It turns out she also has the ability to time travel, and she’s been following Sam through time and murdering everyone he had a relationship with. Why? Some of these people Sam did not have a relationship with, but he did in some alternate future that she knew about and erased. Eesh. I am willing to give a lot of rope to time travel movies, but this movie is choke-sexing itself with the rope. It turns out Jenna is in love with him. Oh, incest? Neat. I was worried this movie wouldn’t have any of that, but it does, in the nick of time. Sam is grossed out, correctly, so he jumps back to the night of that fateful fire. His parents are coughing and making their way out of the house. His dad says, “Your sister!” and Sam says, “You take Mom. I’ll get her.” And the dad goes, “Sure.” What father would ever leave their 15-year-old son in a burning house? “Oh, you’ve got our daughter covered? Cool, I’ll focus on your mother. Make sure not to kill yourself in this fire.” Maybe these parents did deserve to die. Sam goes upstairs and locks Jenna in, so that she burns to death. Fun!
Back in Now, everything about Sam’s life is perfect. Lonnie and Rebecca are together, Sam and Elizabeth have a kid together, and his parents are still alive. It’s his birthday, and they are having a BBQ. Everything worked out, and all he had to do was murder his own sister. Sometimes life makes it easy. His daughter walks up to the grill, and the movie ends with her putting a Barbie that looks like Jenna on the fire and watching it burn. What does it mean?? Nothing.
When You Should Watch It: When you hate yourself, and women. Impressively, not a single male character is harmed during this film. Instead, we see multiple women brutally tortured, and one fake-raped. Doesn’t that sound fun, never?
Max Silvestri is a comedian and a writer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter, where he mostly talks about food.